Safety expert witness advises on retail parking lot trip and fall


safety expert witness parking lotA safety expert witness opines on a case happened in Vermont involving a trip and fall in a retail parking lot of . The plaintiff went to a retail store to purchase a gift for her granddaughter. After parking her car, she walked through the parking lot toward the store. She stepped into an open hole and fell to the pavement. She suffered numerous injuries. At the time, the plaintiff was wearing rubber-soled shoes and was not distracted, according to the store security video. Store personnel responded to the parking lot. The assistant manager acknowledged that day and in his deposition that the lot had a defect.

The retailer has a safety resource manual that requires employees to ensure the parking lot is free from potholes, trash, large cracks, and cracked sidewalks and curbs and to alert a salaried member of the management when these items need repair.

The plaintiff sued the retailer for negligence.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Did the retailer act with reasonable care?
  • 2. Did it violate its own safety policy?

Expert Witness Response

The store did not act with reasonable care based on the condition of the parking lot at the time of the accident. The defect in the paving from the parking lot was an unsafe impediment to pedestrian travel and was the direct cause of her accident. The defect should have been discovered during inspections designed specifically to detect such safety hazards and, as a result, direct remedial measures taken. The fact that the defect that caused the accident existed in spite of the employee inspection policy indicates that reasonable care was not taken to discover and safeguard the hazard.

The defendant had a management safety program that was violated. Reasonable care was not exercised in regard to the trip hazard that caused the accident. In addition, to help establish the standard of reasonable care in the industry and assist companies in establishing a safety policy, the American Society for Testing and Materials “Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces” advises that substandard walkway conditions including broken, depressed, uneven and cracked pavement and abrupt variations in elevation must be repaired.

The expert is a certified safety professional.

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